Fireplaces are worth more than warmth

2010-12-24T03:00:00Z Fireplaces are worth more than warmthEd Fenzl Auburn Citizen
December 24, 2010 3:00 am  • 

As winter has made its grand entrance this month, many of us in upstate New York have already been using appliances such as fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. What if you’ve realized that your fireplace needs upkeep, an upgrade or a facelift, or you want a new one altogether? There are some practical ways to make your fireplace a worthwhile investment and more efficient.

Whether you want your fireplace to be a better backup heat system, supplemental heating or a better entertainment piece, it can have one of the highest returns on investment of an upgrade to your home. The National Home Builder’s Association reports that 77 percent of home-buyers list a fireplace as a most-wanted amenity. The Fireplace Channel Website explains the impressive benefits of adding a fireplace or improving on it:

“As a seller,” it states, “you may enjoy a 6 percent to 12 percent increase in your home’s sales price simply by adding a fireplace.”

Having a gas, electric or natural fireplace is the biggest decision. If your house structure is conducive to a vertical fire and chimney, and you have a reliable and affordable firewood source, a wood-burning fire or stove can be very affordable. Some factors to take into account: how often will you be using the fireplace? Will your house retain heat? How much work can you put into it?

What if you already have a fireplace, but it is a bit run-down and needs some restoration? Anyone can do the upkeep of a mortar or limestone fireplace with the right tools. The site offers simple, step-by-step instructions on how to repair it. The process basically boils down to cleaning debris, preparing the new mortar, placing the new mortar, and smoothing and drying.

Overall, gas or electric fireplaces tend to be easier to install. Do-it-yourself experts explain the pros and cons of each. Gas stoves are less maintenance than wood fires for obvious reasons, but are a bit more involved than electric. For gas fires, you must choose aspects of your setup, such as your ventilation system and your fuel source. Ventilation configurations range from offset to direct vertical or direct horizontal. The fuel choices are natural gas or liquid propane, with natural gas being the most popular.

Lastly, let’s take a look at electric fireplaces. The fire channel lauds the advantages of electric fireplaces.

“Once not even a consideration for fireplaces, electric fires are now all the rage. They operate at 100-percent efficiency and require no venting so they can be installed anywhere.” They note that all it takes is mounting or placing it and plugging it in, so any homeowner can easily install and maintain one.

There are four basic types of gas and electric fireplaces: inset, outset, wall-hung and decorative. Based on a few retailer’s numbers, the inset and outset fireplaces are the most affordable (which is convenient, because they’re the most traditional-looking). The wall-hung fires are more pricey, but are extremely easy to install and are great if you want a more contemporary look.

If your first few wood fires have cause you headaches because of inadequate accessories, there are several efficient and affordable options. Entire wrought-iron tool sets are around $90. Some tool sets are sold with log racks for about $150. When it comes to screens, the materials and prices vary greatly. Quality wrought-iron screens cost anywhere from $75 to $125, while elegant brass or glass screens run in the hundreds and sometimes cost more than $1,000. It’s all a matter of your taste and the purpose of the fireplace.

Fireplaces are an excellent source of supplemental heat and provide a warm ambiance to any home. Installing one, upgrading your current one or repairing one can add value to your house and immeasurable quality to your winter living. Though the weather outside may be frightful, you can ensure that the fire will be so delightful!

Ed Fenzl, of Auburn, is president of CNY Platinum Homes, LLC.  He has renovated more than 15 homes and owns more than 200 apartments. To reach him, e-mail  

Copyright 2015 Auburn Citizen. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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